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Virtually Centered: JCC moves online with new portal during coronavirus; staff say it has a future after pandemic

When Susan Kwasny migrated the JCC’s physical fitness classes online, she discovered that there was a learning curve.
“The majority of our classes are posted on Facebook Live and some of our instructors did not even have Facebook, so we had to get them on there and teach them how to use it,” she said.
Even then, the senior director of health & wellness at the JCC said, there were “growing pains.”
“The [camera] angle of the class could have been better or the lighting or orientation of the camera were not the best,” Kwasny recalled. “But now, I think we have it down.”
In fact, instructors are doing the filming from their homes, with the kids and dogs getting in the act.
“It adds a comical, personal aspect to the class that most of our members enjoy,” she said.
Physical fitness has been one of the success stories of Virtual JCC, the new online portal used to channel members to their particular interests or host videos and other content.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Virtual JCC has kept The J open for business – virtually speaking.
“We are getting great feedback from our members about the classes that we post on Facebook and online,” Kwasny said. “We are also doing virtual personal training, which is going rather well, too. Our members are staying engaged with our trainers and instructors, which is one of our main goals.”
A quick visit to Virtual JCC shows that the web page is divided into five major tracks: Group Fitness Online, Arts & Ideas, Personal Training, Jewish Life & Learning, and Camp, Youth & Youths.
Depend on which track you click, you will be directed to videos, project ideas, live programming, calendars, even an auction.
It isn’t just Group Fitness that’s making the most of Virtual JCC.
“I have been posting links about shows and dance classes, musical theater and dance workouts,” said Frank Goodloe III, CenterStage artistic director. “People seem to really like it.”
Goodloe, along with Erin Jump, CenterStage education program director, have also worked together on Daily Dose, a talk show about soundtracks they’re listening to, Broadway trivia and events happening in the community. The talks are posted every Monday on the Virtual JCC page, under the Arts & Ideas label.
“Coming up, I will be doing a weekly vlog, if you will, called Getting to Know You,” Goodloe said. “I will be interviewing CenterStage cast members, directors, choreographers and musical directors. It’s a chance for our audience to get to know some of their favorite performers.”
Camp J also is on Virtual JCC posting links to projects for children, other kid-centric websites and an exercise video for young people.
The Early Learning Center isn’t using Virtual JCC as extensively to protect their pupils, said its director, Jessica Bush.
“We have to keep all content that includes the children on our closed page,” she said, though the ELC staff is thinking about new ways to engage its families.
“Each class has created a daily routine,” Bush said. “They [teachers] Zoom with their families in the morning, and then in the afternoon post a Facebook Live video with an activity, a story time, or a check-in. It has been great to engage our families in this way; I think they have gotten to know the teachers so much more than in regular school times.”
Not all departments are using Virtual JCC.
“A lot of our seniors are not necessarily tech savvy,” said Senior Center Director Tara Stone. “We have almost tripled our meal deliveries, so I am more focused with that.”
For now, clients are accessing the JCC virtually, though what happens to the portal when the building reopens remains an open question.
But Tom Wissinger, vice president and COO of the Jewish Community of Louisville, sees some place for the portal once the pandemic passes.
“I do think that the roots the Virtual JCC has currently grown will not be entirely uprooted, even when we are back to our ‘next new normal,’ he said. “Having the ability to connect with the community in person, but also virtually, seems to be a win-win situation for all. It allows us to more greatly diversify how we can connect with individuals, but as part of a larger community.
The problem with describing the future role of Virtual JCC, he said, is that no one really knows how much the community will have changed once the crisis concludes.
Goodloe also believes that Virtual JCC is here to stay.
“I do feel that in some type of way we will continue with this Virtual JCC once things come back up,” he said. “I think this is a way that we can continue to stay connected to those that aren’t able to make it out due to illness or whatever it may be. It will give people a chance to still feel as if they are connected.”

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